Construction Management Going Heritage Conservation

Text and photos by Law Siak Hong

The PHS Committee was cordially invited by Ar Tan Seong Yeow, head of Construction Management, UTAR Green Technology Faculty to its Open Day on 16 February. It was at the spacious Heritage Hall in UTAR  Kampar. Not even Tan could tell us the rationale for its name.

It was not easy taking time off work on a Wednesday afternoon. So, for company, I invited PHS member Yusuf Martin and our media ally in Heritage, Foong Thim Leng. We went for the presentation of a study on Gopeng by final-year students to learn what they have discovered, analysed, synthesized and proposed. Leaders of the four study groups took turns to present their work.

Scaled model of shophouse.

Their solution turns out to be quite a clever piece of town planning. What I appreciate most is the direct answers to the problems they have identified. How the re-development would be financed – through state allocations and private sector initiatives – has also been considered admirably.

Their study begins with a research on the history of Gopeng. To gauge local residents’ understanding of their town’s history, the students conduct a survey. It reveals a low level of knowledge but a keen sense of pride in their town, perhaps moderated by the existence of Gopeng Museum, which has raised awareness of their own background.

Their concept is quite astonishing. To solve vehicular problems, it demands the creation of a car park, and a tunnel under the main road to link the town divided by the busy main thoroughfare, Jalan Kay Loong. Usually, crossing this road involves waiting for a break in a stream of flowing traffic, when impatience means danger. To counter that, the students propose building an underpass on Jalan Eu Kong, under the main thoroughfare. Why not? Its engineering is relatively simple. A pedestrian bridge and a recreational garden, with a fountain, next to the mosque are the other wonderful ideas.

Site model; note the underpass at the top right and the park next to the mosque with the pyramidal roof.

Because of the significance of the brand Eu Yan Sang, a pharmaceutical conglomerate established here in 1879, the students also propose to construct  the twin-shophouses of Eu Yan Sang next to the goldsmith on Jalan Pasar in their original design. Well, more research must be done. I wonder if the management of Eu Yan Sang would take up this suggestion. Re-construction also includes the 1886 theatre, the first in the Kinta Valley.

The 1913 twin-shophouses.

Other than the panels of storyboards, the students showed a scaled model of the town centre to illuminate the context and content of the project, as well as a well-built scaled model of a shophouse on Jalan Panggung Wayang.

We congratulate Tan and his students. Well-done!

There are reasons for optimism. We are encouraged by the course Tan has designed, which exposes the students to architectural design and detailing, a pertinent appreciation for heritage and history and, graphic communication skills and town planning. Without a doubt, they are trained as construction managers or, well-educated ‘high-class’ contractors, to fill a desperate need in the real world.

Later, while we chatted over snacks, Tan informed that students in Year 1 will be studying the decorative elements of shophouses to learn how they were done. After all, Gopeng has the most number of the oldest brick buildings in the Kinta Valley with painted decorations and stucco panels.

Looking forward to their findings in a few months’ time? You bet.



2 Responses to “Construction Management Going Heritage Conservation”

  1. 1 Ruth Iversen Rollitt March 16, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Great! Well done, Hong! Will it ever happen? Ruth

  2. 2 HeriHong March 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Any positive idea is to be encouraged. It is left to be seen if the young ones are spoilt by the examples of the previous generation.

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